Lessons to learn about Climate Change from Covid-19

Doctor holding a globe with a protective mask

Is there really any similarity between Coronavirus & climate change? Surprisingly yes, both are real & happening now. Both require a change in lifestyle and a call to action by the public. However, it is the level of inaction by the public that is quite frustrating. With Coronavirus, many people are still living in a state of denial that it cannot happen to them – despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that it can be deadly. For those, and loved ones, not experiencing its ill effects there is almost an element of indifference – as was recently seen in the media where huge numbers of people are still visiting parks and beaches.

Climate change is very similar in that respect, in that devastating natural disasters are increasing in frequency and well documented but there is still surprisingly an insufficient call to action by many people and governments. The water crises that happened when Cape Town (South Africa) & Chennai (India) ran out of fresh water, the devastating fires in Australia, major flooding in US coastal regions, and the deadly heat waves in Europe should be alerting people to be more mindful about consumption habits and its impact on climate change. But it has not done so at a rate where meaningful results can be seen.

The Coronavirus has required forced lockdowns by most governments to rein people in and force the population to behave more responsibly. Most economies, from prosperous ones to poor developing nations, have opted for this measure – despite the fact that the economy grinding to a sudden halt would be disastrous economically and that most people would face major financial hardship. Many governments of developed nations have chosen to take on huge amounts of debt, in many cases unaffordable, to bail out their economies. How this debt will be serviced and repaid is not a decision for today; and future generations will be left to pick up the tab. It is horrifying to think how this future generation will quite do so without experiencing significant financial hardship.

Knowing all this, why is it that governments are taking such aggressive measures? The answer is – with the Coronavirus, danger is imminent. Every government has this problem sitting right on their doorstep…the fear is there…forcing them to be pro-active. The effects of climate change are also real, and pose an equal level of threat – if not more – compared to the Coronavirus, but it is not taken as seriously yet for 3 major reasons:

  • Powerful Influencers: Lobbying by major and powerful companies in the fossil-fuel industry, blocking attempts to reduce emissions of planet-warming gases. Quite often powerful companies that operate in crucial sectors of the economy e.g. energy, agriculture are also major players in dictating economic policies e.g. the pre-dominant use of GM cotton seeds in India which are sold by a handful of companies. 
  • Psychology: Human brains are usually not very good at processing the impact of tomorrow’s changes today. Climate science, and its impact on change, happens over longer time periods – making it difficult for most people to comprehend the effects of tomorrow today, and therefore be afraid of. Whether the world is likely to face a major water shortage which has the potential to cause war & conflict, or that the Amazon Forest would be lost within 50 years; might sound like a grave situation but it is not enough to strike enough fear to motivate people into taking action, since these events are projected to happen in 10, 20 or 30 years time – a time-frame most people cannot envision now. 
  • Politics: Politicians are judged by the voting public, on the impact their policies have on the prosperity of the economy and if they (the public) stand to benefit from it. Adopting eco-friendly initiatives aggressively, e.g. reducing carbon footprint significantly or making the use of green energy mandatory – might be very beneficial in the long term to everyone, but because it is relatively expensive it would be unpopular among politicians & the wider public. Immediate gains at the expense of long term consequences is preferred to making short term sacrifices in exchange for future benefits.

If research and science is anything to go by, the effects of climate change looks likely to get more intense with the passage of time. Natural calamities can be catastrophic, and aside from affecting people mentally & physically, its impact can also be financially devastating to people and economies. Just because we cannot see events physically in the present does not mean that we should treat it lackadaisically.

However, adopting clean living and eco-friendly habits should not be done just out of fear, but there should be a deeper understanding of why we all ought to do this. It is a way for all of us to re-connect with nature and tune in to our true selves. It’s about being respectful and compassionate to all living beings – whether human or other forms of life; and understanding that, like us, they also play an important role in the well-being of our planet. It is about being mindful of our consumption habits and understanding the impact our purchases have on the world’s resources including the health and well-being of our fellow human beings, and choosing quality over quantity. Understanding that less is more.

All countries have been united in the fight against the Coronavirus, through lockdowns and bringing their economies and the world to a halt simultaneously. Everyone is sacrificing convenience and paying a heavy price for the financial and economic ruin in the short term, in the hope of a better future. If climate change is similar in logic to the Coronavirus, and can prove to be equally catastrophic, shouldn’t we all be adopting the same stance? Buying better, which might not necessarily be more cost effective just yet, but see the benefit in the long term?

Buying Organic cotton, with its massive benefit to the well-being of the planet and to the health of farmers mentally & physically, is just one way of doing it. However buying organic cotton is just one aspect. Reducing consumption by choosing to buy good quality over more quantity goes a long way to reduce the impact of climate change through lower greenhouse gas emissions. It might cost slightly more in the short term, but it pays dividends in multiples in the longer term.

Ready to make the switch to living a more compassionate life?